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‘Reflective obedience’ of Singaporeans demonstrated in ‘National Conversation’

Posted by temasektimes on September 21, 2012

A definition of conversation by wiki is: Conversation is a form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people who are following rules of etiquette. Spontaneity can only be achieved by across segment of people; which means a statistical representation of the Singaporean population,which according to the last GE 2011, was 60.1% for the incumbent, and 39.9% in the opposition camp.

Lets face it, even in the US, friendly journalists are planted in a forum to ask the appropriate questions that the politician has a ready answer. Hence, controlling the audience by pre-selecting the participants to benefit the panelists is a trick that all politicians use. But in the US, you will at least have other journalists who will probe without fear, getting a difficult question across and anticipating these tricks, so that a greater revelation or truth can be ascertained. In Singapore, when all the official media are beholden in one way or another to the Government/including its Sovereign Funds, then biases are expected.

Now, I am a skeptic not a cynic, we try to arrive at conclusions through inquiry not suppositions or inherent propensity.

Even if the PAP has not explicitly told the myriad of workers (which in these case would be the top brass) of the need to be pro PAP, the very fact that 65% to 70% of our workforce can be linked directly or indirectly to GLCs, and given its incumbency over a period of 55 years, the tendency is for the workers to practice “reflexive obedience”, which is to favor the PAP.

The words, “reflexive obedience”, can be understood from a report on Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear disaster: “Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity.”

Just in case you think this is just a cultural specific issue, let me give you snippets of the wikileaks about press control in Singapore:

*Chua Chin Hon, was reported as saying that reporters had to be careful in their coverage of local news, as Singapore’s leaders were “likely come down hard” on anyone who reported negatively about the government or its leadership.
*He recounted how several ministers at the time routinely called editors to ensure that media coverage of an issue “comes out the way they want it.” Getting “tough with the media” was one way in which younger ministers tried to boost their credentials with the old guard, he added.

On one hand this shows the paternalistic control by the Government and on the other hand, the pandering to cater to their political masters by the bureaucrats, whether or not it is good for Singapore. Other examples: (1) as the above article shows, a controlled audience ,who are friendly to PAP’s governance, will they reveal Singapore’s discords and social divide, or are they merely there to give platitudes? (2) as reported, the organisers (CCC of Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng) of the Mid Autumn Festival, pushed children of primary school age to rehearse in the open road without closing it to traffic, forcing the parents and teachers to form a human barricade against incoming traffic.

The real danger is that our civil service like the managers of Fukushima Nuclear Plant, forget that their first duty is to protect the citizens and civilians, not to cover the asses of their political bosses.If you want a National Conversation, please do it with a certain robustness of adversarial content, it need not be rude, but it can be to the point and vigorous.

I wish that the national conversation will succeed. God knows we need it. We are not anti PAP, we are pro-Singapore. Dont confuse the two.



12 Responses to “‘Reflective obedience’ of Singaporeans demonstrated in ‘National Conversation’”

  1. P Koh said

    I already had lost all Hope on the National Conversation and had not even bothered to turn on the Chinese Channel to view the discussions with selected pro-govt. panel of audience. It is just a waste of time and no real value can be glenned from this “Staged-play”.

  2. Mark said

    In Singapore we have to select left hands who agree with the right hands. Did the PAP consult us when they flooded the whole island with immigrants & foreign workers? No. Now he said that since we are unhappy after he had done all the ‘right’ things, let’s organise a National Conversation to sort things out. I think we don’t need a multimillion dollars politician to ‘organise’ such plan.

  3. Jack said

    Thanking for sharing and the reminder of the wikileads.
    Our government is the cleanest in the world, our government also made us the healthiest, wealthiest country on this planet. However, I still feel poor even when I look at my CPF statement.

  4. Johnny Reb said

    Great article, but the last 2 sentences are unnecessary. Don’t be afraid to declare your opposition to the PAP. Self-censorship and self-policing are Singaporeans’ two biggest shortcomings.

  5. Exaggerated said

    When all questions have to be sent in weeks before to be vetted through and answers prepared before the conversation starts, what else can I say about this conversation. I still think even though they put up such show to gain votes from unaware citizens, we can spread information through blog and word of mouth. Singapore government is very fortunate that Singaporeans are a bunch of civilised lot that do not bring grievances to the streets compared to what we see happening in other countries.

  6. If the government is willing to get to the bottom of the problems facing its citizens, they then should not just choose people who are pro establishments to attend these coinversations

  7. Poison Ivy said

    Can’t be bothered with this National CONversation. Far better spending time convincing fence sitters why they should vote PAP out in 2016.

  8. Eugene said

    40 years of PAP dictatorship has made Singaporeans obedient to PAP.
    Now LHL is having the PAP wayang called National Conversation (knowing that Singaporeans has been “trained” / coerced into being obedient) to PAP to cover-up and/or distract Singaporeans from PAP blunders and failures since he became PM
    (1) low productivity of Singapore economy
    (2) low birth rate which started from LKY’s “Stop at 2” policy
    (3) depressed local wages
    (4) failing to plan for the many foreigners it allowed into Singapore
    (5) shortage, “shrinking” and high cost of public housing
    (6) shortage of public buses and MRT trains
    (7) shortage of hospitals, doctors and nursing homes
    (8) shortage of teachers and places in schools for Singaporeans
    (9) gave foreigners a big advantage over Singaporeans in job market
    (10) shortage of jobs for Singaporeans
    (11) foreigners taking jobs away from Singaporeans
    (12) frequent breakdowns of MRT trains
    (13) overcrowded public transport (buses and MRT trains)
    (14) bailout of public transport (failed privatisation)
    (15) frequent 50-year “ponding”
    (16) high inflation (Singapore more expensive than Hong Kong)
    (17) high cost of education and healthcare
    (18) high cost of electricity (failed privatisation)
    (19) poor air quality as per WHO Air Quality Guidelines
    (20) depleted CPF accounts after buying “affordable” HDB flats
    (21) many CPF accounts below CPF Minimum Sum
    (22) massive (billions) losses of taxpayers’ money by Temasek / GIC
    (23) wasteful purchases by Government agencies like NParks
    (24) made Singapore a “tuition nation”
    (25) real income likely to fall this year
    (26) failing to provide Singaporeans with Swiss Standard of Living

    • Jack said

      #25. real income likely to fall this year
      This is only applicable to non Civil Servants, all civil servants are getting 4% – 15% this year and it will be so for the next 10 years as announced by the Minister CCS.

  9. Naivety said

    It is so dramatic this “National CONTheNation” thing & are they (the white monkeys) overdoing it to the extent that even my cousin who is a primary 6 school student also knows that the whole session was very much staged with planted & fielded questions & model answers in advance & beforehand and that the audience comprised mainly & purely of PAP members & supporters only!!??

    What is the point of having it at all in the 1st place…wasting of Public Funds, Tax Payers’ Monies & resources only just so to create a false PR image/impression to make Pappies look good???

  10. Ro said

    Well written article. I like the spirit of the writer. A pro Singapore approach.

    I just wanted to manage expectation of the writer and add a couple of my own points. Conversation created by the establishment is the right move in the right direction and should not be discouraged. I am a believer of positive stroke. Change from within the establishment will not be swift and we need to understand. We also need to understand that reflective obedience is also a response to positive reinforcement and successes over the years. Thus about two third voted and that is a huge majority by any standard. This means that in general we do not want a total change of personnel. That is why we need to be pro sungapore and try to work with the leadership despite being skeptic. And being skeptical is also to be expected but we need to encourage change and not pick every bone in a mindless attack. It achieve no result by doing so.

    The next 10 years will challenge any leadership in Singapore – be it PAP or opposition. Simply because it is easier to work from poverty to better life. The basic needs is met and what is next becomes a more difficult to pursue. It is part of our nation building. I will always give the PAP the next 4 years to do their tasks. After that, I will review if more drastic change is needed.

    The Chinese has a saying that wealth will not cross 3 generations, neither does poverty. Generally, this saying points to a a weaker and richer 3rd generation children. But the reality is that it has got to do with parent and the children. The problem generally is its inability to adapt the values in changing time. These were the values that makes it successful. The difficulty in making these values relevant become challenging by third generation.

  11. Jafri Basron said

    As long as the intention and desires to cling over to their power exist; what ever being pursued is only half for the citizens . The other half is for their survival to continue remaining in power.

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